Belnord Sale Leads to End of Rent Fight

The battles at the Belnord were epic.

Shawn G. Kennedy, The New York Times, October 29, 1994

Twenty years after angry tenants went to war with the owner of one of the Upper West Side’s grandest apartment buildings, a peace settlement was reached yesterday, ending one of the longest rent strikes in New York City’s history. The owner gave up the building, the Belnord, and the tenants, many of whom can barely recall a time before their struggle, won a pledge from the new owner that the building would once again have hot and cold water full time, enough workers to keep it clean and a fresh paint job for its dingy exterior.

Even in a city where landlord-tenant disputes are woven into the fabric of life, the battles at the Belnord were epic. Since the mid-1970’s, tenants in the landmark building– which occupies the full block bounded by Broadway, Amsterdam Avenue, and 86th and 87th Streets–and their landlord, Lillian Seril, have waged shrill warfare against each other.

In scores of lawsuits and formal complaints to housing officials, tenants charged that Mrs. Seril’s stinginess with her repair budget had caused the ornate Italian Renaissance building to deteriorate to a dangerous and dilapidated state. The complaints ranged from toilets that would not flush to lurching elevators and a leaky roof.

Since 1978, nearly half of the 225 tenants have been engaged in a rent strike, putting millions of dollars into escrow.

Read the full article in The New York Times

“We are taking something of a risk. We have asked the state to dismiss the penalties. We are withdrawing all of our litigation and every claim for everything imaginable. We are cautiously optimistic that the new owners will be responsible landlords.”

Thomas Vitullo-Martin, executive director, Belnord Landmark Conservancy

“The tenants will also be paying. Part of the deal includes an agreement by tenants to accept rent immediate increases ranging from 30 to 60 percent. Under the accord, State Division of Housing and Community Renewal has agreed to lift a lien on the property that had blocked the owner from raising rents since 1978.

Shawn G. Kennedy, The New York Times
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